It's unashamedly an attempt to do SNES games like Mario Kart and Street Racer- but on the Amiga, with comedy cars, multiple views, an eight-player mode, textured 3D, split-screen and everything. (If you refuse to accept the existence of any other machine (sigh) imagine Bump and Burn crossed with Virtual Karting.)
The thing is, the SNES was built with special chips designed exactly to do things like multi-player, multi-angled, multi-viewed, texture-mapped 3D racing games. And while Extreme Racing demonstrates highly impressively it's possible to do the effects with clever programming, it devotes so much time to getting things up and running, there's not much left for, say, the game itself.
Mechanically, Extreme Racing makes a credible go of it. All the key elements of Street Racer or Mario Kart (or, indeed, to a lesser extent Virtua Racer) are there. You get 12 reasonably well-designed tracks, two each for the six locations. You have a choice of eight different comedy cars, each with its own comedy driver. There's a selection of single races, championship races, a racing season or a deathmatch in which everyone tries to kill everyone else. (Although, slightly oddly, that's more or less what you do all the time, since your car is always armed. Can't pass that comedy driver in front? Shoot him! Still. Not to complain, or anything. And you can turn the guns off completely if you want. If you're mad or something, say.) Pickups are dotted around for weapons or power-ups, or cash to soup up your engine if you're playing a season. You can alter the viewpoint effortlessly all the way from a below-the-exhaust angle with the horizon six inches ahead of you right the way to a spot-the-rust-around-the-sun-roof angle with the horizon stretching majestically into the distance. There's also a camera that records your race from in front, behind or the viewpoint of the following car. There are bystanders to run over, jumps and obstacles, and a cheat mode to turn the cars into sheep. There's a link option for all eight players, or four on a single machine, although this does get a little cramped.
Once you're over the wow factor, there's little to keep you going back to Extreme Racing. It's almost more fun fiddling with the options than it is playing the game. The controls (surely vitally important in a racing game) aren't delicate or feedbacky enough, especially when compared to the likes of Super Skidmarks. They're functional, and the game provides a few moderately diverting thrills if you can be bothered to master them, but you don't get the feel of them, just learn to live with their limitations. Weaving across the track with agility and grace is not an option. Equally poorly, there's no difference between the cars except in the graphics. They all handle as cumbersomely as one another and have no idiosyncratic defining weapons or special powers. Extreme Racing desperately, desperately needs some character. The comedy vehicles add nothing to the game and mighty as well be different-coloured Volvos.
But let's be fair. Let's imagine you've persevered with the controls. Let's suppose you didn't want to identify with any of the characters or form a fondness for a particularly loony car. Let's speculate that you are, in fact, ideally suited to Extreme Racing. You'll still be disappointed. For a game that relies so heavily on guns, the weaponry on hand is frighteningly lame. Yellow missiles pop out of your car barely visibly, and you don't get to see people crashing into your mines because, obviously, they normally go off behind your back. And while the tracks are intelligently designed (no impossibly tight 90 bends, for example) they're rarely exciting, hardly spurring you on to best the one-player mode.
Multi-player mode then. As I've said, you can have up to eight players on two linked machines, but it's all strangely hollow and uninvolving. You're still racing on those intelligently designed but rarely exciting tracks, you're still using guns that go plib rather than KERPOWWW! and there's still little of the thrill of the kill, except now your human victim's more likely to be ruing his tea-strainer than working up any kind of fun grudge at your blowing him off the road.
Extreme Racing is more a game for Amiga programmers than for, say, racing game players. It's competent, but you've absolutely no reason to choose it over any of its contemporaries. For texture-mapped driving you're better off with Virtual Karting (although similarly stylish-but-hollow, it handles better and offers more excitement; wait for the March sequel and you get a multiplayer mode as well) and for manic racing action you're better off with Super Skidmarks. Hell. Stunt Car Racer's still a lot more fun than Extreme Racing. Although it does manage to be better than Street Racer on the SNES.
It's a cool racing game, with many XTreme features, like the multiplayer mode.
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